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How to Clean Your Indoor Houseplants

Two Parts:Preventative actionCleaning grime build-up

Houseplants can provide your home with purer air and a lively appearance, all while offering you a satisfying, low-maintenance hobby. Unfortunately, the leaves of your houseplants will accumulate a layer of dust and grime over time. Failing to clean this dust from the leaves will help attract insects, mold, and bacteria that feed on the organic matter in the dust. Dust also blocks light, hindering the plants from photosynthesizing their food. Learning how to clean your indoor houseplants occasionally will help you prevent these problems.

Part 1
Preventative action

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    Rinse the leaves of houseplants regularly. The best preventative step you can take to avoid dirty leaves is a regular rinse with lukewarm water. Avoid applying cold water, which can cause spots on the leaves and shock the roots (remember that houseplants nearly all hail from the tropics - they are accustomed to warm rainfall).
    • For rinsing small houseplants, place the plant into your kitchen sink. Spray it down with your kitchen faucet if you have a sprayer; otherwise use a spray bottle.
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    • Large houseplants can be rinsed by placing them into your shower. Flexible, extending shower heads work well for this task. Allow the plant to drip dry before returning it to its home.
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    Wipe large houseplant leaves down with a moist cloth. For regularly removing dust buildup from houseplants with large leaves (such as a peace lily), wipe the leaves gently with a cloth moistened in lukewarm water.
    • Paper towels and terrycloth towels are acceptable for this task, but can be abrasive to the plant's leaves. Ideally, you should choose a very smooth cloth; rags made from old tee shirts work well.
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    • It helps to support the leaves and stems with your free hand to prevent breaking any of them by applying too much pressure with the cloth.
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Part 2
Cleaning grime build-up

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    Clean dust from fuzzy-leaved houseplants using an old toothbrush. Houseplants with bristly leaves, such as African violets, can be dusted using a soft toothbrush.
    • Supporting the leaf with your free hand, clean it using gentle strokes of the toothbrush. Work from base to tip of each leaf. Clean the dust from the toothbrush occasionally.
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    • In addition to a toothbrush, you can also use this technique with a soft-bristled paintbrush, a pipe cleaner, or even one of the plant's own fuzzy leaves.
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    Swish houseplants with small leaves in water to remove dust. Houseplants with many small leaves, such as nerve plants, would be intensely time-consuming to clean leaf-by-leaf. Instead, these plants can be swished around in lukewarm water to remove dust.
    • Begin by filling a bucket with lukewarm water. Adding a few drops of mild dish soap will help clean the plant's leaves.
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    • Supporting both the pot and the soil with your hands, turn the houseplant upside down and submerge its leaves into the bucket of water. Swish it around gently, and then allow it to air dry.
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    Bathe in a shower of tepid water. Once a year, or every few years, use this method. It's ideal for plants that can get really dusty, such as Christmas cactus and Philodendron plants, especially when big.
    • Place the plants in a shower of tepid water. Set them on a waterproof stands if large.
    • Use a handheld shower (be careful to adjust the water temperature adequately) and gently spray the leaves to rinse off all grime and build-up. Don't spray too long.
    • Allow to drip dry.
    • Restore to their original place once dry.
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    Try using mayonnaise to help shine up the leaves of your plants. This process takes lots of time, and does not work for plants such as African Violets because the leaves are fuzzy.
    • Dust the leaves off first as well as spraying it with dishwashing soap and lukewarm water.
    • Put a bit of mayonnaise onto a wet cloth and wipe down each individual leaf. The oil in the mayo will create a shine on once dull-looking leaves!
    • Lightly wipe off the mayo with a cloth afterwards.

Tips

  • Remember that some varieties of houseplants, like cacti and succulents, do not respond well to getting their leaves wet. These houseplants should be cleaned using a dry method - for instance, the toothbrush method mentioned above.
  • Rubbing a mixture of milk and water on your plant leaves can also leave them shiny after a good dusting as well.

Warnings

  • Avoid using commercially produced leaf shine-boosting products. These products clog the pores of the plant, as well as reflecting away the sunlight that the plant needs for photosynthesis.
  • Mayonnaise can cause attraction to bugs and dust. Make sure you wipe off each leaf with a cloth afterwards to prevent this from happening.

Things You'll Need

  • Houseplants
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Cloth
  • Toothbrush
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Mayonnaise (for optional shine)

Article Info

Categories: Indoor and Patio Plants